Image of Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz

Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director (CEO/MD)

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz was appointed Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director in August 2012 and a Director of Mirvac Board in November 2012.

How one chart changed everything

10th October 2019

It was during a strategy presentation to the Mirvac board this year when this chart came up and by the end of the meeting it was the only slide that mattered.

A couple of years ago I was asked to give a speech to some university students on the future of work. At the time, my teenage daughter calmly informed me that I was a ‘relic’ and therefore couldn’t have much to say of relevance on the future of work to a group of young people – whose entire career experience will be so alien to mine.

On one hand, she was quite right. Her experience of the world of work will be so different to my experience – and so will be the experience of urban living for our future retail and residential customers. But on the other hand, she was quite wrong. No matter what the future of work looks like, the requirement to have key values including empathy, courage, moral strength and curiosity will endure.

And it turns out, the future isn’t that far away.

It was during a strategy presentation to the Mirvac board this year when this chart came up and by the end of the meeting it was the only slide that mattered.

This changes everything

It is a very simple chart but I looked at it and I thought – this changes everything.

This is generational change we haven’t seen for 30 years. In a very short space of time a cohort of people who have grown up in a digital world are going to be the majority of the workforce, will make up the bulk of the consumers and be the decision makers.

This chart made us realise there is a generation of people born after 1990 who are living, working, shopping and interacting completely differently to the generations that came before them.

Millennials and younger generations are rapidly on a path to becoming the dominant consumer base in Australia, set to take over Gen X, baby boomers and beyond by 2024.

This is a generation that has a different approach to the world and different drivers for how they spend.

And as senior executives we often have very little to do with them.

That is going to be bad for us, bad for them and bad for business.

At Mirvac our mission is to Reimagine Urban Life. For us it means we are creating homes for families of all types, office and work spaces for workers and retail outlets for shoppers.

But what about the people who can’t afford to buy a house? What about the workers who are in the gig economy and hop from job to job? What about the people who come to our shopping centres but not to buy?

This graphic has now formed the key basis for an ongoing review of our business strategy and made us realise that not only are we nearing a tipping point where this generation – who we are calling Digital Natives - will outnumber the rest, but also that we don’t serve them very well.

"That is going to be bad for us, bad for them and bad for business."

Who are Digital Natives?

So, we have set out to understand this generation better. We have sent our innovation team, Hatch, on a deep dive into the world of Digital Natives, and my daughter Sophie (yes, she of the insightful ‘relic’ advice) joined their team as an intern.

We have found that what is very apparent to her and her cohort (“Mum, this is so obvious”) is actually a surprise to the rest of us. Their reputation as flighty, self-centred, wasteful generation is very different to their reality, or IRL as the kids (apparently) say.

In fact, they are not the ones wasting money on smashed avocado. They are more reminiscent of my grandparents, implementing every savings life hack they can. This is not a generation of people brunching on weekends and buying their lunch every day. These are the guys who know when the baked beans are on sale at Aldi.

What we thought:

  • they spend lots of money on smashed avo, and other frivolous purchases
  • they are happy to rent forever
  • they are self-centered and narcissistic, focused on selfies and instagrammable moments
  • happy to mooch off their parents and live at home until their late 30s
  • lacking career clarity
  • happy to go from job to job and love the gig economy
  • entitled; wanting promotions without doing the hard yards

What we found:

  • they care about the world and research extensively to uncover the truth
  • they want to move out and don’t like feeling dependent on their parents
  • don’t have clear pathways to employment, causing stress and anxiety
  • do want to own a home of their own
  • spend more time at home due to financial pressures
  • are smart with money and often research extensively before making a purchase

Shadowboard

This journey has led to the creation of a Shadowboard – to shadow our Board and ensure that Digital Natives have a place at the table. It means we have bright 24 year olds sitting alongside veteran board members – and that makes for some fascinating chat.

We know we are lucky at Mirvac to have the pick of the best and the brightest for our interns but there is no question this was a voice that has been missing in high level conversations. We recently had a workshop with our leadership team and the Shadowboard and our business is already better for this development; it has freed up our thinking, given us new ideas and insights that can only come from fresh thinking.

Now that we understand the world of Digital Natives a bit better, we have started to work on solutions that will help them.

This is just the start of our journey

We don’t yet have the answers, or even all the questions. But we know that it is a journey that we have to go on as a business because without it our business will have a different world view to our future workers, our future customers and our future leaders.

It is a voice that needs to be heard and understood – and we are listening.

We would love to hear your views on Digital Natives and how they are going to change the world.